Originally Posted by mild_adventurer
I hear and agree with everything you're saying. And of course it makes sense that DSD is feeling a bit invaded and displaced and I certainly don't want to do anything to make that worse (I want to make it better!). I love both of my step-children very much and always have their best interests at heart.
BUT, since this is a safe space, if I may regress into a little bit of selfishness for a minute...
I moved into a house that was totally decorated and furnished by another woman. My children and I have lived there for a year and it still doesn't feel like my home. Even my kids have said, from time-to-time that they feel like they're still "just visiting." They don't feel like they have the right to "get comfortable" there. I know it sounds harsh and unfeeling, but I'm frustrated that I can't make any changes without causing this huge disruption for my step-kids. Not only can I not afford to buy new living room furniture (let alone a brand new house), but if all of a sudden the couch that their mother picked out vanished, my DSC would be devestated. It's like the house is a shrine to a family that no longer exists and even though it's MY house now (I'm on the deed, I pay the mortgage), I have absolutely no latitude to do with it what I wish. I'm not allowed to make it my own. And frankly, I don't really want to have a heart-to-heart with my DSD everytime I need to move a pot or measuring cup to a new cabinet. My heart just SUNK when I read that you were so angry over new curtains and a slipcover (which don't seem like huge changes to me). Do I really risk my step-children hating me if I dare to change something their mother did? The thought of that is paralyzing! When am I going to be allowed to
I am an EXTREMELY conscientious mother/step-mother. I'm very careful to involve the kids in every decision/conversation where their input is appropriate. I'm very conscious of their feelings around the whole blended-family thing. I'm extraordinarily respectful of their feelings and opinions and anger. The kids are always, always, always put first.
That said, at what point do my feelings get to matter again? I'm sick to death of the daily reminders (couch, coffee table, art, photos, rugs, bookcases, etc) that my DH used to live here with his XW. At what point do my opinions about things are in MY OWN HOUSE get to matter again? At what point to I get to say, "Honey, I know it must be very hard for you to have things change around the house, but it's time for the house to reflect the people who live here now?" Their mother is not dead. They see her regularly. It's not like they need the couch she picked out to be in MY living room to continue to feel connected to her.
Okay, that was some serious vent. Thanks for letting me get that out. Sometimes the whole mother-sacrifice thing gets to be a bit much to keep inside.
Oh, thanks for sharing that! I think its interesting and see, this is bigger than just folding shirts or chicken soup, now you've got to the core issue of having the combined home be for ALL the family.
I remember my DH having some of his old girlfriend's things and I completely was obsessed over getting rid of some of them. Some other things, it took me years, but I *claimed* them. They are not hers, they are not his, they are mine and I can enjoy them and we have been together long enough that they are mine and I don't think about the old life they lived, because I'm living in the present, not the past.
How about coming up with a game plan for what things you might like to change, things that are realistic and affordable, etc. and then first talk to your DP about it?
I agree it's not fair to you that you feel like you can't change anything... change happens. But, knowing that change can stress out your pre-teen SD, you and your DH may need to prepare SD and help her through it a little. Like, give her some advance notice a couple weeks beforehand, and maybe talk to her about anything that's particularly special to her and respect those things, but let her know that other things may get adjusted just because we want to try things out.
Another thing that would be good for DH to talk to your SD about is that change is OK (and this is a very important life lesson -- adaptability -- people deal with this in the workforce all the time.) And that things can get moved, etc. etc. but the important things and people in her life are still there for her. He's there for her. Her mom is there for her, etc. etc. Maybe she has other things that she's struggling with and some of the objects are symbolic for her too. How are things with her mom?
I always have a hard time with change, even when I'm the person that makes it sometimes! I'll buy something new and then really stress over whether I hate the new thing or if it's OK. Then I settle down after a few weeks. I am much better now but still once in a while I get fixated on details, and that's part of my personality.
I now kind of enjoy re-arranging our furniture now and then when we clean and for different seasons, etc. etc. Maybe you can enlist SD's help and comments etc. etc.
It sounds like you are sensitive to her feelings, etc. I think you should work on this and try out some things and gradually work toward more balance in this because you sound like you really need this. And yes, your needs are important too. It may take a little extra work and adjustment and patience, al that. But you can do it.
You also may come up with a plan for what you might add to the house rather than what you will take away -- if it's all taking away her mom's stuff that could get emotional, so maybe it's easier things like re-arranging to start with. The kitchen seems like an easy place you can and should claim, especially if you do most of the cooking. I don't see any reason why you can't take it over and let her adapt. But be kind when she asks where things are and while she is adjusting because it will be hard for her. But she will survive.
Then I'd just be thoughtful about your approach to the other areas of the house and be sure to leave some things so it's not like everything she knew is gone.
The thing about the kitchen is it's easy to change a few things back if she really loved having the cereal in a certain spot, or you know, whatever and you guys can compromise pretty easily, it's not like throwing out the sofa or painting the living room purple.